Tag Archives: Pottery

Remodeling the studio

It has become increasingly obvious over the last year or two that a major remodeling of the studio was going to be necessary. As output has increased and work habits have changed, and the fact that I want to put in a wood burning stove for winter heating, changing the configuration of the studio has become unavoidable. I’d been putting it off for a long time because it is going interrupt, but I last week it finally reached critical mass and I decided to bite the bullet and get to work. So…

First order of business is to get the stairs into a more manageable place, and add some floor space to the second floor. Here is a series of photos of the project:

Start. Gotta get the stairs out of the way, remove the visible section of floor, and remove the shelving underneath.
Start. Gotta get the stairs out of the way, remove the visible section of floor, and remove the shelving underneath.
Stairs and floor removed
Stairs removed, floor next.
Shelving gone.
Shelving and floor gone.

Interesting note here: when I removed the floor and started taking things off the shelf so I could dismantle it, I found my studfinder that I’d been searching for since, well since I put in that floor section 4 or 5 years ago. I looked everywhere for that thing!

Bottom shelf/clay storage gone.
Bottom shelf/clay storage gone.

I’ll still need to remove and redo the shelving at left, but for now just removed enough to get this project accomplished. Baby steps…

Post secured, main beam laid over the top.
Post secured, main beam laid over the top.
Oops, very heavy stairs on the wrong side of the beam.
Oops, very heavy stairs on the wrong side of the beam.

The ‘beam’ is actually two 4.5 cm thick boards screwed together. In my rush to get the beam in place, I forgot to move the stairs to a place within the work area. Doh!  Stairs 1, Homo Sapiens Sapiens 0.  But it all worked out ok, I threw the rope over the newly placed beam and used it to lower the stairs to the ground, then slid them over near to their final resting place, without destroying any discs in my back. Yes! Stairs 1, Homo Sapiens Sapiens 1. Take that, stairs!

Stairs on correct side of beam, cross supports almost in.
Stairs on correct side of beam, cross supports almost in.

This is my first project where I have discovered the forbidden delights of the Simpson Strong-Tie. I’d seen them before in the States, but only recently in Japan, and only at one of the home improvement stores. They saved me all kinds of time, since I didn’t have to cut all the joints for the floor joists, and as an added bonus, they’re cheap.

Floor boards almost done.
Floor boards almost done.

I secured all of the floor boards from below, so there are no screws or screw holes visible on the floor surface, and no need for wood plugs or putty.

Floor boards done, stairs back in place.
Floor boards done, stairs back in place.

As you can see, the stairs come awful close to the remaining shelving at left, but they are accessible. Moving the shelving is on the to-do list. Still, looking good from here…

The view coming up the stairs.
The view coming up the stairs.

Nice expanse of natural wood with no nails or screws visible.

Staring down the floorboards.
Staring down the floorboards.
The view of the stairs from the far corner. All done.
The view of the stairs from the far corner. All done.

All finished. This is the view from the doorway side of the shop looking back toward the stairs. The original part of the second floor at left. Stairs are up against the wall, and the studio already feels roomier.

Fukunokami 福の神

This is one of my favorite water jars, not just from the Karatsu tradition, but from all water jars the world over.

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Fukunokami, coil and paddled jar, ame glaze.

I like the way it looks more like an old burlap sack than a pot, partly due to the way it was made, and partly from the firing.
Here are two I made as a sort of practice. If I can come close to the original,  I’ll be thrilled, but just getting the practice is the main goal here.
Whoever made the original really really knew what they were doing. It is coil and paddled, and about three mm thick throughout.

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Also, some other pots in the works:

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Of late…

I have been busy. Just seems like there is no time for blog posts. Here are some pics of stuff going into the kiln for the upcoming firing in the new year.

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Porcelain cups. Coil built.
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Small food dishes
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Dish feet
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Casting insulating blocks for kiln doors.

This next firing will be longer than previous firings, about 3days, which means a lot more wood to prepare. Gasp. Argh.

New helper in the studio

I traveled to the port at Nagasaki this morning to pick up my new studio helper, a Peter Pugger VPM-20. Once I got it home, it was a breeze to assemble and mount on the stand, and it was up and running in no time.

plugged in and ready to go

Excited to get it working, I grabbed a bucket of dry scraps and some softer clay, and started mixing. It took some time to figure out how to get what I wanted out of the machine, but I think I’ve figured things out for the most part. It really seems to need to be full to do its best work. Once I added enough material to the hopper, things really started moving along. The first pugged clay was too soft, so it got put in again with a lot of dry crushed sandstone and mixed. I just kept adding more dry sandstone until I got what I wanted.

the first time through was too soft and got run through again

I turned out still to be quite a light batch. After turning on the vacuum, pugging out the contents, then digging out the remainders from the hopper, I had a batch of almost 12kg. The beautiful thing was that because the whole batch had been de-aired, even the unpugged remainders were very easy to wedge by hand. In the past when I have mixed as much sandstone in as I did today, the clay has been largely unwedgeable by hand, being just too short and falling apart.

vacuum pump is working…

pugged clay next to what remained in the hopper

All clay bagged and ready to go

I think this machine and I are going to be great friends. It allows me to mix and process clays and other materials that were previously impossible to process just by hand. Oh, and it is very quiet, both the main motor and the vacuum pump are much quieter than I had been expecting.

A pot only a potter can love…

This last wood kiln firing was a real disaster. All of my large pieces cracked or collapsed completely, and all of the smaller work ended up under-fired badly. The upside to this is that they can all be refired, and I just finished the 2nd of 3 refire loads in the gas kiln this morning.

From the first refire load, my favorite pot is a porcelain teabowl glazed with rice straw ash glaze. I don’t normally work in porcelain, but in my search for bodies that vitrify a little better than the local clays, I’ve started using partly or mostly porcelain in some of my work. This particular bowl is porcelain with as much feldspar sandstone mixed in as I could manage, and still have it wedge-able.

In the wood firing it was in a spot that got a lot of fly ash, and in fact a lot of flaky ash collected inside the bowl. Making sure not to dump this, I saved it for the gas kiln and fired it to cone 11 flat. All of that ash melted really nicely, mixing with the rice straw ash glaze for some nice color.

There are several bloats on the interior, but none really fragile or severe. These bloats and the blues and greens on the interior really remind me of some the old Karatsu bowls with their warty bloated surfaces and subtle coloring of fly ash on rice straw ash glaze. Another nice thing about this pot: the fire color from the wood kiln was not lost in the gas firing. There is a nice gold luster on the  melted surface of the bare porcelain body.

Bummer…

This just made me sad when I saw it this morning. We had a LOT of rain over ten last 36 hours, and I think the footers sank a bit, tilting the stack forward, then dumping it. This will take some time to clean up.

** Just one quick amendment to this post: on re-reading the post and comments, I realized that I may have mislead people to believe that the stack (chimney) went over. Not so, thankfully. Just the stack of wood. No damage to the kiln other than a few scratches to the insulating top coat, and about 5 unlucky shelves that had been sitting right where the wood struck.


-Posted from iMike

Location:Taku, Saga, Japan